ESG standards: IFC signs three agreements with Tunisian partners

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and three Tunisian partners signed on Wednesday in Tunis three assistance and cooperation agreements aimed at promoting the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practices. The partnership agreements, signed with the Tunisian Stock Exchange (TSE), the Tunisian Institute of Directors (ITA), and the 'Université Centrale', a member of Honoris United Universities, aim to promote the adoption of ESG best practices in these institutions, currently focused on the banking sector, and to facilitate access to finance for the country's businesses. The aim of the three agreements signed today is to promote the adoption of ESG standards through an 18-month technical partnership that will provide Tunisian partners with experts who can then respond to the needs of their clients," Sarah Morsi, IFC Resident Representative in Tunisia said in a statement to TAP. Regulations in Europe and elsewhere now require the implementat ion of ESG standards, Morsi explained, pointing out that this requirement is becoming increasingly necessary, particularly as environmental risks are becoming more prevalent in Tunisia and Tunisian companies need to be equipped to deal with them. The IFC intends to strengthen its presence in Tunisia in the future through investment projects that will mobilise a budget of $100 million this year in companies operating in the agri-food sector. Moez Miaoui, Head, Environment, Social and Governance Advisory, North and West Africa, said the signing of these agreements is the first action in the integrated ESG programme for Tunisia that IFC will implement in February 2023 with the financial partnership of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). The four-year programme aims to promote the adoption of ESG practices in Tunisia's financial, manufacturing and agri-food sectors. "ESG practices enable Tunisian companies to ensure their sustainability and development, especially as environmental iss ues will be a barrier to development for two reasons," he said. These include the impact of climate change on certain sectors, particularly agri-food, and the need for Tunisian exporters to comply with norms and standards in order to export. Lilia Bouchnak, Executive Director of Université Centrale and a member of Honoris United Universities, the leading pan-African network of private higher education institutions, said this partnership would help strengthen the activities already launched by the Observatoire Tunisien des Femmes Administrateurs. "The IFC will help us to further develop training activities in governance and soft skills aimed at developing the skills of women aspiring to positions of high responsibility, as well as the publication of an annual report on statistics on the presence of women in decision-making positions. The IFC's support will also cover other activities such as creating a pool of competent women trained to take up senior positions, raising awareness of the presence of women on boards of directors, and lobbying for legislation requiring a quota of women in decision-making positions. Currently, less than 15% of company boards in Tunisia are made up of female directors. Moez Joudi, president of the Tunisian Institute of Directors (ITA), stressed the importance of ESG criteria, which companies and banks must meet. Joudi said this agreement will allow the ITA to benefit from the support of the IFC to help Tunisian companies and banks to comply with these ESG criteria, through the directors, who will become a vector for the transmission of these criteria in banks and companies, through their presence and power within the boards of directors. Bilel Sahnoun, Managing Director of the TSE, highlighted the support of the IFC, which has produced an ESG reporting guide with 32 assessment and evaluation criteria. The aim is to set up a support programme for 15 listed companies from different sectors in the first phase. The aim of this programme is to structure a disclosure policy for extra-f inancial information based on ESG criteria," he concluded. In Tunisia, the adoption of these practices by banks and companies is still limited. According to an IFC study, most banks in the country do not have the internal capacity to manage ESG risks. IFC is a global leader in the implementation of ESG and corporate governance criteria, particularly through the introduction of standards and performance norms, and the development of tools and guidance. Over the past five years, IFC has committed more than $140 million to support Tunisia's agribusiness, manufacturing, finance and renewable energy sectors. Source: Agence Tunis Afrique Presse

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